The Girl Next Door worked at the Foodway on the bad side of town. There amongst the old, the angry, the disenfranchised, the pushers, would-be pushers, madmen, dead people with eyes like empty pools...I cannot imagine how she could survive in such an atmosphere, but every day she walked away, alive and jubilant, out into the parking lot to greet the sun. Hers was a warm little goth universe for the leeches of the Foodway to crowd around...but like a giant ball of burning plasma, she never ran out of energy, and they went away with seared faces and cancer in their bones.
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When Collie pulled up, she bounded across the parking lot, peeling off the buff-colored work shirt (slender plastic tag: Sandra, Customer Service) and reached into her pocket for earrings...nose ring...tongue stud...one hand already pulling up the errant spaghetti-strap black tank top while the other vaulted her through the window, into the smouldering interior of the car
She sprawled full-length across the backseat, a cat in repose.
"Do either of you charming young gentlemen have a cigarette?"
Collie handed her a Kool. She looked at it in disgust.
"I said a cigarette, Collie. I don't know what you call this."
"I call it charity," said Collie, and reversed out of the parking lot, slewing across the dividing line. "Oh...and you might want to put your seatbelt on."
Sandy crossed her arms. "Whoever it was that taught you to cuss should be smacked. Road-whore..." She rolled her eyes. "Wait 'til they hear THAT one at the Ladies' Club..."
"I should at least get points for originality," Collie said. "Hey, you going to share that lighter or what, road-whore?"
"I ought to shove it up your ass, boy..."
"I love it when you talk dirty."
"Shut up and watch the road." Sandy blinked. "No, I mean it- watch the road."
Collie braked before we smashed into the back of the 18-wheeler...but just barely.
"That was fun," said Sandy. "Renton, say something witty, yet amusingly dry and humorless."
I reswallowed my heart. "Er...can I get back to you?"
"Take your time, Renton. Collie, the light's green. You can go."
We began to move again, albeit more slowly.
Sandy leaned back, crossed her arms, and took a long, languid drag off her Kool. "You see? Bad things happen when you use words like road-whore."
"Oh for fuck's sake..."
I sighed. "You two are so cute when you flirt."
"DON'T encourage her." Collie waved his cigarette at me. "I'M driving this bus, and if I say 'plummet off the edge of a cliff' we plummet off the edge of a cliff. And then we miss all the getting drunk and fucking- hopefully not each other, except for the bitch in the back seat-" Sandy gave him the finger. "-that we could do from here until we die of tubercudystenariosis or whatever. So shut the fuck up."
I was speechless. Sandy wasn't.
"That," she said. "Was perhaps the most incoherent thing I've heard in, oh..." she looked at her watch. "Twenty minutes. Congratulations, Collie."
"Where are we going?" I said.
"The Orb. Remember The Alley?"
"Sure. Good Industrial music."
"The Orb is the same place."
"I thought The Alley closed down."
"It DID, but some rich fuck from up north decided to remodel it and open it up again as some sort of yuppie techno bar or some shit. Probably be all fags- no offense, Renton-"
"-and college kids, but we can at least wreak some havoc on their stupid little lives. I'm in the mood to kill something and eat it tonight."
"The 21st Century Barbarian, hard at work." Sandy grinned. "You'd lick your balls too, if you could reach them, wouldn't you?"
"Nah, I have you to do that for me." Collie made kissy-faces in the mirror, and she gave him the finger again.
"Oh! That reminds me!" said Sandy. " Renton, I've got someone I want you to meet tonight..."
"How did giving Collie the finger remind you of that?"
"You don't want to know. Anyway- her names Carissa, and she's REALLY cool. I think you're going to like her."
"She's a good conversationalist, too. I'm sure she'll teach you ALL about the wonders of elocution..."
"Talking, Collie. You know, That-Which-Renton-Does-Not-Do? You know there ARE other words out there besides 'beer' and 'pussy'."
"Of course! You missed 'weed'."
She smacked her head with the palm of her hand. "Annihilate all rational thought. Guess who said that, Collie?"
"Burroughs," I said. "I think."
"Burroughs, or someone speaking for Burroughs...Collie, why are you turning here?"
"Ah, yes," said Sandy. "The four F's. Food, Fight, Fuck, and Flee- but not necessarily in that order..."
We pulled around into the drive-through of an unpleasantly cheery themed fast-food restaurant, whose sigil appeared to be an insanely happy boyfaced midget about to shove his perfect white grin through the meat of a rotund burger that...yes...also appeared to be smiling.
A tinny voice: "Can I take your order?"
"May," muttered Sandy. "That's MAY I take your order..."
"Yeah!" said Collie. "Okay, kid, you listening?"
"Good. What I want is a Super Burger, but- and pay attention here- I was FOUR patties on it instead of one. You got that?"
"Uh, sir, I don't think we can do that..."
"Don't give me that crap! I want my hot beef injection! I don't care how much it costs!"
"Um, just a minute..." Frantic sounds of scuffling, and faintly: "...uh, this guy wants..."
We waited. Collie grinned.
"Uh, yes, sir. We, uh, we can do that. It'll be, um, about $9.25. Is that okay?"
"Yep! Fry it up, kid! Renton, you want anything?"
I shook my head.
"Don't even bother, Collie. You know I don't eat red meat."
We pulled up, and Collie paid his money- a $10 bill, and 'keep the change'- and we slewed back into traffic.
"Look at this!" he said, massive burger in hand. "It doesn't even fit in the fucking wrapper! Man, how'm I going to get my mouth around it?"
In the backseat, Sandra snorted laughter. I turned to look at her, and she winked at me. To this day, I wonder what that wink meant...
"Quit this world, quit the next world, quit quitting!" -Sufi proverb.